Digital Footprints

My initial thought on this subject is that “active” data collection does not bother me very much because in theory I have some level of say and personal impact on the amount of or detail of this type of data. If I post a picture or video of myself doing something dumb and a prospective employer sees it that’s ultimately my fault. The passive data is what tends to annoy or worry me. It is scary to think how much tracking of our web use is done when you are made aware of your digital footprint in surprising ways this worry hits home. I have been legitimately creeped out by how well targeted Google ads or searches have been for me.  My issue truly comes down to who exactly uses or mines this data and to what end they put it toward. Knowing that others are profiting from selling data about my personal shopping habits is a hard thing to swallow when the practice is blatantly staring you back in the face.

When Googling myself the first thing I found that was related to me was actually business information for my father (Who is also named Forrest Doud). Shortly below that in the first page of the search was my Linkedin profile. It made me realize that this Linkedin would easily come up in an employer search for me, which on one hand is good, but on the other it might be a disservice to me. This is because my page is very barebones and I have never taken the time to keep it updated, accurate, or sufficiently detailed to make me appear as impressive as possible. This assignment actually has motivated me to start working on making my page better, or shall I say polish my digital footprint.

Another thing I have noticed is that because I share the same name as my father there are times where digital footprints are cross over into each other. For example in interactions with my health insurance provider and also UPS I have seen security questions (to verify identity) that pull passive data to ask things like, “Which of these streets have you previously lived on”. There has been more than one instance where the street listed was actually one my father had lived on and not me. Yet that was the answer they were looking for. It makes me wonder what other ways our digital information can get mixed up with another person’s unintentionally. Ultimately I think the issues I have experienced so far with my own digital footprint are just a drop in the bucket compared to what is possible.

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One Response to Digital Footprints

  1. Russell Nash says:

    Forrest, I think you hit the nail right on the head, so to speak. We do have a lot of control over several aspects of our digital footprints. Personally, the catering of ads to my preferences doesn’t bother me (actually, I like it when Facebook figures out that I would rather see ads related to cameras and computers rather than hot singles in my area, or whatever usually pops up). I have experienced the same cross-over problems you mentioned. My grandfather and my uncle are both named Russell Nash (different middle names), and apparently there are about 100 or so Russell Nashes scattered throughout the U.S. How often did you find your date of birth and address listed in the searches? My year of birth was the only thing that bothered me. I don’t typically share that information, just the month and day.

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